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Quarantine king: the resistance band

Eight exercises for eight bucks

photo by @wearebru

I love resistance bands. They are probably the most versatile tool in my gym bag, and a staple regarding exercise selection - even when I have state of the art equipment at my disposal. Also, they are portable and cheap. Just what we need now the gyms are closed. With a little creativity the amount of movements that can be performed with resistance bands is endless, but you have to know what you're doing in order to make it worth the while. So, in order to save you the hassle, I have cut through the crap and composed a list of eight movements that deserve a spot in your exercise library even well after you have returned to the barbell. Let's go:

1. Lying pull apart

This upper back and shoulder movement can be performed both standing and lying down, but I prefer the lying version because it better allows you to relax the neck and upper traps. Do make sure to keep the elbows fixed, maintain abdominal tension throughout the set, and use a supinated (underhand) grip to save your shoulders,

2. Dead bug

There are a thousand ways to do this abdominal exercise, so I've decided to go with the most common variation. This exercise is all about maintaining a neutral spine, so make sure to brace your abs and lock in tight before putting tension on the arms or legs. Also, don't pull up the knees beyond the hips in order to keep tension on the abs. The roof terrace is optional.

3. Leg curl

In order to fully develop your hamstrings, you need to train knee flexion. Enter leg curls. During this exercise it is important to keep the abdominals and glutes engaged in order to maintain a neutral pelvic position. I have found these to work best with a short 1 to 2 second pause in the contracted position.

4. Half kneeling Pallof press

This static abdominal exercise is usually performed when standing upright, but I prefer the half kneeling variation because it makes it easy to perform the exercise with a neutral pelvic position. Put your outer leg forward, brace your midsection before starting the exercise, and don't forget to work the other side as well.

5. Face pull

Of all these banded exercises this one is probably my favorite. Unfortunately this upper back and shoulder exercise is easily butchered by poor technique, so please take care. Keep your head back, chin packed, ribs down, and make sure to pull up towards your forehead.

6. Shoulder protraction

This one is great for learning to push through at the top of your push ups and working on dynamic shoulder stability. Keep your thumbs up, elbows fixed, and make sure to push your shoulder blades all the way forward. This exercise can be performed while standing up as well, but I prefer the sitting version because it tends to reduce spinal movement and helps to keep focus on moving the shoulder blades.

7. Crab walk

These are usually performed with a band around the knee or ankle, but I prefer the front footed version due to its extra accent on training external rotation of the hip - which strains the glutes even more. Be sure to maintain an abdominal brace and slight forward lean. Also, focus on pushing away with the trailing leg and drive out your knees at all times.

(If you don't have a short band to your disposal, tie a knot in your long band for a similar effect)

8. Triceps pushdown

You didn't think I would send you home without including some arm training, did you? This triceps classic is usually performed with a cable pulley, but I have always liked the banded version. Strive for a vertical upper arm position throughout the set, and use a little forward lean to increase the range of motion. I have found these to work best with a short pause at full elbow extension.

Well, that rounds it up. I was pleased to notice that I had already taped quite a few of these exercises in the past, because it underscores how valuable I feel they are. Irrespective of whether you were training with resistance bands in the past, I hope that this article inspired you to expand upon your exercise library and incorporate more banded work into your training.

Good luck!

Bryan Wolters

MSc. Human Movement Sciences, former powerlifter, and current trainer at Vondelgym Amsterdam.

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